On Building a National Architecture against Corruption
REGIONAL CONSULTATIVE WORKSHOP
ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF
GHANA’S NATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION ACTION PLAN
REMARKS BY THE COMMISSION/WORKING GROUP DELIVERED BY JOSEPH WHITTAL
The Chair, Heads of MMDAs, Members of the Regional House of Chiefs, representatives of the private sector, representatives of civil society groups, opinion leaders, religious leaders, the academia, student representatives, our friends from the media, distinguished invited Guests, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to welcome you to today’s consultative workshop geared towards the development of a National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) for Ghana.
Corruption has many faces
Ladies and gentlemen, all over the world, corruption is a threat to the moral, political, economic and social wellbeing of people. It is universally defined as the misuse of entrusted power for private gain. While the concept is typically viewed as a public sector phenomenon, corruption, however, knows no bounds for it is very much a creature of the private sector as it is of the public sector. It is a vice that cuts across all types of institutions and organizations, in both the private and public sectors.
CORRUPTION SURVEYS IN GHANA
In Ghana, surveys show that majority of Ghanaians see corruption as a serious problem. A World Bank/CDD survey (2000) found that 75% of households regarded corruption as a serious national problem; and GII survey (2005) found that 90% of urban households considered corruption to be a serious problem. In the space of five years, these two surveys point to the growing concern of Ghanaians about the prevalence of corruption in the country.
The two surveys also found that Ghanaians generally rated most State agencies very low in terms of honesty and integrity. They pointed to security agencies, MMDAs, revenue collection agencies, and elected officials, for having poor record of honesty and integrity in the country.
The two surveys further pointed to the dominance of state capture and patronage, use of state resources for political advantage, use of intimidation and vote manipulation by political parties, and award of contracts to political cronies (both at national and local levels) in the country.
According to a survey by TI in 2009, about 31% of Ghanaians considered political parties extremely corrupt, while 21% of the public considered political parties very corrupt and 22% considered political parties somewhat corrupt.
The survey further showed that there was increasing demand for payment of bribes in some State institutions or agencies when doing business with them. About 63% of the time the security agencies demanded bribes before a service is provided; bribes are demanded about 32% of time when you want to register, acquire permits or license; for land services, demand for bribes are made 29% of the time; and in educational institutions, demand for bribes are made 20% of the time.
A World Bank survey in 2007 disclosed the following:
39% of firms expected to pay informal payments to public officials (to get things done),
23% of firms expected to give gifts to get an operating license,
8% of firms expected to give gifts in meetings with tax officials,
61% of firms expected to give gifts to secure a government contract.
Corruption: Causes and Consequences
Ladies and gentlemen, corruption is increasingly becoming pervasive in Ghana. It has sunk deep into the moral fibre of our society due to the increasing opportunities for corruption but little chance of being caught. Consequently, we are faced with a situation where corruption is increasingly becoming the norm rather than the exception in Ghana.
We seem to be far from winning the fight against corruption because our efforts over the years have failed to effectively deal with the root causes of corruption in Ghana. The problem of corruption in Ghana stems from many factors including economic factors, political and social factors, cultural factors, weak enforcement of laws and regulations, weak institutions, and lack of political commitment to fight corruption.
Ladies and gentlemen, economic factors have contributed to the growing rate of corruption in Ghana. We have fueled corrupt practices by increasing scarcity of public goods, poorly remunerating our workers especially in the public service, and selling of goods and services supposed to be free or subsidized in exchange for money or other forms of payment. Added to this, the fear of ending up as paupers when they leave public office because of the inadequate retirement package in the public service, public officials turn to corruption and looting of the public purse to afford themselves “a better future”.
We can point to political and social factors that have weakened our efforts to cure corruption in Ghana. We are faced with situations where people want to win and stay in power so they willingly pay for support, buy votes, rig elections, and abuse incumbency. We are also faced with challenges with entrenched social relations and networks of patrons and clients found in political parties and government institutions, who put undue pressure on our political leaders to engage in corrupt practices. The functioning of our social system depend more on the patronage system than on rules and regulations governing institutions.
The growing phenomenon of payment of high filing fees by aspirants to political parties is deepening our corruption woes. In addition, demands by political parties for political appointees to make financial contributions to party coffers because they put them in office is destroying our hope of ending political corruption in the country.
Ladies and gentlemen, corruption has entrenched itself in our society because of certain cultural practices such as nepotism and the culture of gift-giving. Culturally, we view nepotism as helping our relatives and close associates get favours especially jobs, even in cases where they are not qualified. It is almost entirely unthinkable in our society to refuse to give a favour to one’s in-laws or family members.
Relatives and close associates of public officials simply expect the public office holder to “do something” for them. People queu to see public officials in their homes and offices; ostensibly to help them solve their personal problems such as wedding, naming ceremonies, funerals, rent, domestic bills, and many others.
Although it is customary to give gifts in Ghana, people present bribes and kickbacks under the guise of making gift donations. The growing societal expectations of largesse and patronage from our leaders have also mutilated our efforts to combat corruption.
Our failure to enforce laws and regulations on corruption and sanction defaulters has encouraged corruption in our country. We can all name corrupt institutions and persons in our neighbourhoods who have not been punished by the law for engaging in activities that foster corruption. Similarly, our efforts to end corruption have not achieved the desired results because of high institutional weaknesses and prevailing refusal or failure to follow laid down procedures and regulations in both the private and public sectors of Ghana.
Ladies and gentlemen, our failure to win the fight against corruption is mainly attributable to inadequate political commitment to end the menace. We are burdened with lots of political rhetoric that is rarely backed by concrete action to curb corruption.
Ladies and gentlemen, the cost of corruption in Ghana is enormous, covering the loss of development funds, retardation of economic growth, flight of capital and the inflation of administrative costs. For firms in Ghana, corruption brings about increases in costs of production and reduction in profit margins. It has discouraged investors from further investing in our dear country leading to retarded economic growth as new jobs are not created and social amenities are not expanded.
Corruption has stagnated Ghana’s development because money intended for schools, roads and hospitals goes to individuals. The prevalence of corruption has taken medicines from the sick! It has denied equal protection of the law to the poor and vulnerable! It has denied any future to our children because they cannot get the best education because someone swallowed the public funds for education. It has suspended the rule of law particularly in instances of protracted cases, disappearance of dockets, exorbitant filing fees, among others.
Ladies and gentlemen, corruption accounts for the low quality of social infrastructure in Ghana. The low quality of social infrastructure is affecting movement of goods and services leading to artificial shortages and reduction in access to goods and services especially by deprived persons.
Corruption has reduced the capacity of public institutions in Ghana to perform well particularly in instances of corrupt appointments and promotions resulting in less qualified and less able people making decisions and controlling how resources are used. There is growing redundancy, loitering, and reduced competition among individuals in public institutions to perform well because of corruption. Regrettably, skilled, honest and able people remain unemployed while unqualified persons get the jobs because of rising corruption in public institutions in Ghana.
Ladies and gentlemen, year after year corruption continues to erode our national gains; our hope of a better future for our children; and our hope of sustainable development. We can no longer afford to look on or just talk about corruption. What is needed now is “action rather than words”.
Ladies and gentlemen, since the return to constitutional governance, Ghana has demonstrated strong commitment to combating corruption by implementing measures to ensure prevention, detection and sanction of corrupt behavior and practices.
However, in spite of the string of strong interventions, corruption still remains endemic in Ghana. Ghanaians are increasingly cynical about official commitment to combating corruption and trust of public office continues to erode.
We have been unable to effectively deal with corruption. Factors accounting for this situation include poor planning and policy direction, and increasing public apathy to stem corruption. The plans and strategies we developed in the past to combat corruption could not achieve much because of weak political commitment, poor coordination, low public participation, poor enforcement base and dominant donor inputs that drove the development of these documents.
For the most part, our approaches have been our undoing. Our failure lies in our inability to put in place a system to combat corruption. Corruption is a system, and it can only be countered by a system. We ought to build our efforts into a systematic concept of prevention and punishment for corruption.
The reports and exposures of corruption are only a few of the many incidences of systemic corruption that occur too many times particularly in institutions and organizations that operate with a system that is hospitable to corruption. Our problem deeply lies in our weak approaches that are incapable of uncovering systemic corruption. Our best approach should be to counter corruption with a more comprehensive system.
National Anti-Corruption Action Plan for Ghana
Ladies and gentlemen, the development of a National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) offers the nation a better anti-corruption regime by means of a more comprehensive system to combat corruption. The NACAP is obviously a better strategic response to the weaknesses in our approach to fight corruption.
More importantly, the NACAP is a living document that we will continuously update and monitor in line with progress achieved and setbacks faced during its implementation. This way, we will wage a more sustainable fight against the scourge of corruption in our country.
Although the NACAP is not a magic wand, it holds lots of promise for the fight against corruption. Among other things, when completed, the NACAP will enable Ghana:
Undertake coherent measures targeted at creating awareness, preventing and combating corruption
Ensure a realistic, comprehensive, holistic, and systematic approach to fight corruption and achieve high integrity in both public and private sectors.
Create workable guidelines for the management of public resources and the use of public authority in public office.
Assure implementation, by building capacity and providing necessary resources.
Promote voluntary compliance by reinforcing values of ethics and integrity in the public service.
Minimize opportunities for corrupt practices and reduce temptations for corrupt behaviour.
Develop strong mechanisms for supervision and monitoring compliance, by government, governance institutions, civil society, and the general public.
Countries with NACAP report the following positive effects:
NACAP has increased public perception of corruption as being ‘high-risk, low reward activity’ through competitive salaries, severe punishment when detected, and publicity in the mass media.
NACAP has guaranteed higher degree of policing through effective application of the formal rule of law and the informal controls which encompass values of ethics.
NACAP is the generic framework against which more specific and detailed action plans for specific public and private institutions, departments and agencies have developed their own.
NACAP has an educational value as wider discussions on anti-corruption, systematization and descriptions of views and recommendations contribute to increase understanding among both public officers and the general public of the evils of corruption on national and personal development.
REGIONAL CONSULTATIVE WORKSHOPS
Ladies and gentlemen, since the NACAP, which is being developed is owned by the Government and the people of Ghana, the Working Group, and CHRAJ are currently facilitating regional consultative workshops in all ten regions of the country concurrently from 28th February to 4th March, 2011 to collate inputs, comments and suggestions from all stakeholders, MMDA’s, civil society groups, chiefs, opinion leaders, religious leaders, the academia, student representatives, the media and the general public to make the new NACAP workable and set it on the path to achieve its purpose of building national consensus to fight corruption in a more comprehensive, holistic and systematic manner.
Ladies and gentlemen, this morning, you face a historic opportunity to contribute to the overall benefits that will ensue from developing the NACAP. Your inputs at this workshop, among other things, will:
foster constructive dialogue on the anti-corruption options for Ghana;
enhance partnership, as well as coordinate joint interventions to fight corruption;
show your willingness to cooperate and work towards shared goals to fight corruption;
reinforce your unwavering commitment to fight corruption; and
assure ownership of the NACAP by Government and the people of Ghana.
Among other things, we should be ready to:
Participate in other information-gathering efforts to determine which sectors or subject matter areas need to be captured in the NACAP;
Diligently embrace monitoring or assessing roles that we might be assigned under the NACAP; and
Mobilize popular support and build political will to achieve targeted goals under the NACAP.
Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to express our profound gratitude to DANIDA for the financial and technical support they are providing for the development of NACAP. We also wish to express our appreciation to the Working Group for the good work done so far.
Our sincere appreciation also goes to the Government and people of Ghana for the support and foresight to call for the development of a new NACAP to succeed the defunct strategy.
Finally, our sincere thanks also go to all of you for being here for this all important workshop. Your willingness to participate in this workshop underscores your commitment to find a more lasting solution to corruption in Ghana. I wish you fruitful deliberations.
Thank you for listening and God bless us all!